Vauxhall's second generation Zafira Tourer diesel is a premium product with a proletarian badge. Jonathan Crouch drives it.
Ten Second Review
The Vauxhall Zafira Tourer diesel is the smartest choice in a range of handsome seven-seat MPVs. Moving straight in at the top of the market, the product is most certainly there but is the public ready to embrace the badge?
Some products are resolutely and forensically researched into existence, fitting into some sort of ruthlessly logical product masterplan. Others just seem to have sprouted from one corner of a giant organisation and defy conventional wisdom. Think Volkswagen Golf for the first approach and Nissan Juke for the latter. Then there's the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer. In execution it feels relentlessly thorough. It's beautifully built and is fiendishly clever. A seven-seater with real class, it's a bit of a head scratcher insofar as it's possibly the slickest car in its class yet wears one of the most blue-collar badges. If you buy a vehicle based on what it can do, Vauxhall should have no problems shifting some serious numbers. The diesel versions are the best tuned to the demands of the British market and there's no shortage of choice.
There are four diesel engine options: a 1.6-litre unit with 136PS, an older-tech 2.0-litre powerplant with 130PS, a new-tech 2.0 CDTi 'Whisper desel' engine with 170PS and a pokey 195PS 2.0 CDTi BiTurbo unit. Six-speed manual transmissions are fitted as standard with the option of a six-speed automatic. Acceleration to 62mph is sprightly - even the 1.6-litre variant manages it in 11.2s en route to 120mph. That figure falls to 9.1s if you have 170PS under your right foot. The diesel engines are extremely refined, but the more powerful versions mean you don't need to mash the throttle quite so hard, especially if you're driving fully laden. The Zafira Tourer has a clever suspension system, using the same strut front mounted on a separate subframe as the Insignia. The rear end doesn't feature a multi-link arrangement, Vauxhall rightly reasoning that this adds bulk and cost where it's not required but features a neat Watts link arrangement. Building on the chassis' dynamic prowess is the option of Vauxhall's FlexRide adaptive damping system. This automatically adapts the car's damping to suit road conditions, cornering speed, vehicle movements and an individual's driving style. In addition, drivers can select from a choice of three settings: Standard, Tour and Sport.
Design and Build
The Zafira Tourer is a very smart looking piece of design, the flanks featuring deep twin swage lines that are about as far from the archetypal slab-sided minivan look - and, indeed, the original Zafira - as it's possible to get. When combined with the voluptuous wheel arches and the headlamps that merge seamlessly into the driving lamps and intakes to form a characteristic arrowhead, it's clear that the Zafira Tourer is one that will appeal to the aesthete. With seating for seven, the entire third row can be folded flush with the floor of the luggage area, but rather than being a bench, the second row instead comprises three separate seats that can be folded and moved fore and aft through 210mm, giving third-row passengers the potential of extra room compared with the outgoing Zafira. Passengers in the second row also benefit from more space. Thanks to a clever folding mechanism (available on certain models), the back of the middle seat can fold forward and rotate, providing occupants in the outer seats with individual armrests. The Zafira Tourer's load volumes have increased over the old Zafira. In five-seat mode, the luggage area holds up to 710 litres (up 65 litres), and up to 1860 litres (+40 litres) when all rear seats are folded. There's also an optional FlexFix integrated bicycle carrier.
Market and Model
Pricing starts at £22,265 for a 110 PS model in entry-level ES trim. Next up are the 130PS models which kick of with the £22,715 ES. This seems good value for the additional power although there's the nagging doubt that the only difference between these cars is a line or two of code on the ECU chip. The 165PS models start with the Exclusiv at £24,565 and then move up through the SRi, SE, and Elite trim levels. Even the simplest ES version gets ESP+ stability control, twin front, side and curtain airbags, cruise control, wheel-mounted audio controls for the MP3-compatible stereo, air conditioning and the Flex7 seating system. If you're willing to spend more, there are all manner of high tech function on offer. This includes a radar-based Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Collision Mitigating Braking (CMB), Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR). There's also Intelligent Light Ranging (ILR) which is an additional function to the existing Automatic Forward Lighting + option. Then there's Side Blind Spot Alert (SBSA) and Advanced Park Assist (APA) which helps drivers to find an adequate space to park and then guides them into it with the assistance of a rear-view camera.
Cost of Ownership
Fuel economy between the three different engines doesn't vary that greatly with all three powerplants returning a combined fuel figure of 54.3mpg. All three versions emit 137g/km so they won't nail you when you fill in your tax return. Vauxhall is retaining the old Zafira in the line up to cater for those looking for a more affordable seven-seater but the improved residual values of the Zafira Tourer means that the cost per mile over a typical three year ownership period aren't as wide as you might imagine.
Unexpectedly delightful would be my two word summary of the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer. The product is brilliantly resolved but fits in an odd part of the market. If you want the best seven-seat mid-sized MPV, you're looking at it right here. The 165PS diesel engine is also the pick of the engine line up, although the 130PS unit is also well worth your time. Only go for the 110PS unit if you're utterly cash-strapped, and even then an ex-demo model of one of the more powerful models might well be a better bet. With all the practicality you could reasonably expect, sweetly resolved driving characteristics, great economy figures and a broad range of trims and options to choose from, the diesel engined Zafira Tourers are squarely on point. If you can negotiate a discount to bring the pricing down, they're genuinely hard to fault.